Should I buy a DSLR? - Verdict
The questions posed on the previous page are not an exhaustive guide to the pros and cons of DSLRs, compacts and super-zooms, but highlight the major differences between them which you should be thinking about when making a buying decision.
The key advantages of a DSLR are quick handling, better image quality - especially at higher sensitivities, the ability to swap lenses, support for more lighting options and better control over exposures. They are ultimately more sophisticated cameras, but are bigger, heavier and pricier than most compacts or superzooms - especially if you want a powerful zoom lens - and most can’t use their screens for composition nor capture video clips. There’s also the problem of dust when you swap lenses.
The key advantages of a compact or superzoom are low size, weight and price, and a built-in lens which could offer a massive zoom range, image stabilisation and great close-up capabilities – not to mention the ability to record videos and compose shots with a colour screen which might even flip-out for unusual angles. They’re undeniably the most convenient cameras around, but are typically let down by poor quality under low light, often sluggish handling and lack of complete control over exposure.
So if you’re happy to sacrifice ultimate performance and control for a camera you can slip in a pocket and use to record videos, then go for a compact and check out the best models around right now in our Compact Camera Buyers Guide.
If the above applies to you, but you also fancy greater manual control or the flexibility of a powerful zoom lens in a very portable package, then a premium compact is the camera for you. Head on over to our Premium compact Buyers Guide to discover which models most impressed us.
If you demand the best image quality, quick handling, great performance at high sensitivities and the ultimate in control and flexibility, you can’t beat a DSLR. They may be bigger and heavier than compacts or superzooms, but decent grips give you more to hold onto, and while most DSLRs won’t let you compose with their screens, this in turn allows their batteries to last much longer. For the most affordable models check out our Budget DSLR Buyers Guide, or if you’re after something more powerful still, see our Mid-range DSLR and Semi-pro DSLR Buyers Guides.
And finally if you’d like more advice on specific brands and models, head over to the Cameralabs forums to find out what their owners are saying about them.